Solitude Notwithstanding (Apologies to S. Vega)

I don’t want to be lonely
I just want to be alone…”
-silverchair, ‘across the night’

For his second wish, Steven chose to give the genie freedom.

It felt momentarily surreal, using a wish to provide the giver with something equally powerful, but also right. Why shouldn’t he, having been given the present of solitude through a wish, not show his gratitude by reflecting that gift on a being who was imprisoned, chained to him through a fairy-tale curse?

Not to mention that Steven wasn’t really sure what else he could want, that wouldn’t have the dreaded cataclysmic kick-back effect.

And so he wished for the genie what he had wished for himself, and the genie thanked him, and disappeared, a fog that gradually faded from view, leaving Steven unable to say with certainty that the genie had ever been there.

Although of course it wasn’t imagination or dream; his first wish had been been granted, and he still had the weirdly disconcerting bottle on his shelf, the genie’s discarded prison left behind as a constant reminder.

Solitude, Steven was coming to realize, was a one-way mirror, and your enjoyment of it depended entirely on which side you stood, and what you wanted out of it.

On the one side, self-reflection was all that you found. Yourself staring back at you, with everything that lay behind you as well. Pleasant for the narcissist in yourself, probably.

On the other side, you can watch as the world goes by, crawling day by day through its paces. It’s a real-time reality TV show, without the scripting and the editing for reaction shots. So much so, as it happens, that watching it is all the interaction you have.

But that mirror, he thinks, has its flaws, those areas where light is refracted and bent, making you look warped. There are smalls slivers of glass missing, and those places make the worldview hard to enjoy.

And after a while, when you’re the only one left, who else is going to clean the glass but you?

He had almost missed out on his chance to live a fairytale altogether. It almost seemed to him, on reflection, that the genie wanted to be found. The bottle was attractive, certainly, but not the usual thing that would catch his eye. Not to say non-descript or ugly — more that he was past the point in his life at which he looked for treasures, hidden or obvious.

Simple was enough for him, but after passing it a few times with his eyes, he was eventually drawn enough to it to pick it up, and out came the genie. End of story. Or beginning, as such things happen.

Steven had long dreamed of something special, something unique happening to him, so when it happened, he had thought himself ready, incorrectly. It took a ridiculously long time to make his first wish, though he quickly followed that with his second, almost as though the two were intertwined.

He had a fear of consequence, of reactions unforeseen. That was the way of the fairytales he knew – penned by Serling and Joyce and King, where the wish is granted, and enjoyed, until ultimately revealing the universe’s desire for balance. He worried that wishing for world peace would end in overpopulation, that riches for himself would deprive another of everything they had ever known, that any of his desires would be met with something inversely undesirable.

In time, after careful consideration and thought, he asked for and was granted the same thing he gave (in a way) to the genie – freedom, which in his case meant solitude.

“Time can erase not just the future, but also the past.”
-penn jillette

Steven was very bad at many things, but he was very good at discovering that. He wasn’t bad at everything, by any means, but many things that he thought he wanted to do quickly revealed themselves as out of his reach, for varying reasons. He wanted to play sports, but his body wasn’t built for physical competition; he wanted to act, but was far better at exploring himself than understanding not-him people. But he tried, over and over – that, he was very good at.

He tried relationships, but was never very good at them. He tried being part of groups with similar interests or hobbies, but quickly grew exhausted. Teams asked too much of him; friendships, over time, would change and drift away. Even being a hermit didn’t work out, but in time, he finally sorted it out – he liked being around people in a distant way that didn’t ask or expect too much from him. It was far from what he had dreamed of – just like his films and his chess playing and his woodworking abilities – but he accepted it, because Vonnegut once wrote “So it goes,” and he liked the simple poetry in those three syllables.

And so he wished for a world in which that was okay, and granted the being with the power to give him everything he had could ever wish for, anything he could ever want, the freedom to chase the same, or whatever else the genie might want for itself.

In time, Steven grew to learn the consequences of his wish, and they were everything he had expected. He was happier without having to make commitments to others, or having to account for their wants or desires. He was sad many nights, without someone meaningful to share his thoughts and experiences and feelings with. He did what he wanted, whenever and wherever he wanted, without explaining himself to anyone for any reason. But he did everything alone.

He did everything lonely, which was fine, because that’s what it was.

One day, Steven decided that he needed a change. For no discernible reason — no one incident changed things for him, no overnight dream of different things or sudden light bulb that things might be better, waiting on him somewhere else. It was just time.

He had forgotten that there was one more wish waiting for him, but he had never forgotten the genie. They had spent so much time together without the expectation or hope of what would come out of their relationship, and he had grown to love the genie, without ever realizing it, without naming it. Theirs was a preternatural closeness and understanding, and though details of the genie’s face and voice had begun to fade into a glamorized imagination of a memory, his love for the genie’s company remained crystal clear in his heart and his head.

And so he set out, with only the most important of physical possessions, leaving everything he had ever known behind. He didn’t know how to find the genie — not even how to begin — but he knew that it was worth trying, worth the look.

Because with the genie, he had found someone with whom he could be alone without ever being lonely.

He didn’t need another wish — just the determination and opportunity to really make his first wish come true.

You got your solitude
And I got my peace
And nothing in that moment matters more
If only in just this one fragment together it grows
This tree… may be i must maybe lost
Right where i need to be…”
-steven wilson

12/19-12/24 2015

Untitled 4477

It’s winter he says of his dream.  It’s winter, and there’s a light snow falling.  Not that that matters, since everything’s already buried under a thick blanket of blinding white.  Isn’t it funny, how even though there’s clouds in the sky still dropping the little crystals on the world, it’s blinding white?

He pauses, then, and I can’t help but think he’s a little sad.  Or not sad, perhaps, but wistful, wishing that it were a memory of tomorrow instead of a dream of yesterday.

There’s a field filled with people he continues, the smile returning to his face like a Woodstock, or one of those outdoor festivals?  And I mean filled with people — it’s weird, how the world flows seamlessly from snow to people and back to snow, and I can’t tell where one begins and the other ends.  Except…  he trails off for a moment, and I swear that I can see his heart skip a beat in his eyes … except for her.

And I don’t know why this is important, or how, but the air is music.  I mean, I know that music is just vibrations in the air, right?  But that’s not it.  We’re not breathing oxygen in and carbon dioxide out, but notes, and harmonies, and polyrhythms. Do you get it?  The air, every molecule surrounding us, me and her, this woman who is the only thing that isn’t snow or faceless people, is living and evolving and shifting.  And there’s no band, at least not that I can see maybe they’re buried under the snow, I think but there’s music everywhere. And it’s the most glorious, intense, powerful, soul-shaking thing I’ve ever heard or felt.

He stops. The smile is still on his face, but his eyes are glistening.  As I watch him, waiting patiently for whatever’s coming next — because he’s surely not going to leave me hanging on this — a lone tear swells on his lid and escapes down his right cheek. He doesn’t even twitch a finger to stop it, and I can barely resist the urge to catch the drop on my finger, like a butterfly that should be touched before it flies away forever.

I think that music that was in the air was unique for everyone that heard it, that it became whatever you needed to hear, whatever would touch your soul at that moment.  And maybe some of those people heard Mozart, and others heard speed metal symphonies, and probably some of them heard silence.  But it was different for everyone, because that musical air was alive and intelligent and just wanted to make everyone happy.

And while I was losing myself in that space, that tick between inhaling and letting it go, feeling the snow gathering on my hands, she turned, and I saw every feature, every detail. And her eyes – my god, her eyes, like stars being born – met mine.

His voice cracks, and I suddenly realize that the one tear has become a genuine river of tears, but all the while, his smile just gets bigger and bigger, and I can’t help but feel some of his happiness myself, so contagious is it.

And I know — KNOW he says with such emphasis that it shakes me — that she and I, in all the world — we two are hearing the same song.

And it’s the only song either of us ever needed.

We sit in silence, then. And I envy him, and his dream, and his memory of the music that connects.

The Great Return of the Untitled

Laying on his roof over the front patio, the sounds of the city night are distant whispers. He stares up into the night sky, thinking, wondering, dreaming.

All about her.

The way her skin feels beneath his fingers echoes through his mind, bouncing madly off of the walls of his skull, tracing narrow arcs of blue flame where they travel. Her scent, the way the smell of her clings to his clothes and his cheek where she pressed against him. The look in her eyes, piercing his soul to let the sound of her laughter in.

He dreams of things he has no business dreaming: of walks so calm that the rest of the world is washed away in the deafening silence, and of the sound of the ocean crashing around them as they laugh together. Of summer nights in front of a flickering screen, hours on end, of music shared loudly, of winter nights curled together, sharing warmth and comfort. He dreams of pulling the stars and sky from above, and boxing them into a pendant that she can carry around her neck forever.

But he is only human, and dreams and desires come as they will to him, outside of his control. And he smiles to himself, suddenly feeling the urge to stand, to climb to the highest point on his roof, to shout to the world and the stars and the gods that he has known her all his life, that she has waited for him all of hers, and that no matter what else, they have found each other.

He does not stand, or climb, or shout, but only lays there, dreaming his dreams, smiling, imagining her there next to him, working out the logistics of capturing the stars and the sky for her.

It can be no more improbable, he thinks, than his hope of grasping the feelings inside of him and showing the world that dreams exist outside of the sleeping world.

By any other name… (untitled no. 58)

The plank above the door reads “geisteskrank.”

This is not where he meant to be.  That much he knows.  The darkness seems to shift around him, shadows lifting and falling like waves before a storm.  A hissing noise, not so much mechanical as the sound of a machine breathing, voices in the fan above him.   There’s a small window in the door to his right, the door under the sign, a porthole, and he can see the dried blood smudged across it on his side, four lines that taper into nothing, left to right.  The answer is just beyond that glass, but he’s too scared to see what may or may not be.  And so he sits, propped against a wall of wooden crates that he somehow knows rises taller than the ceiling, shifting his hands and hips in the dark muck that may or may not be blood, may or may not be his own blood, wondering what to do next.

geisteskrank.

The scuttering to his left startles him, whipcrack of a head turning, and he thinks he hears himself ask who is there, but there’s no echo from the steel walls around him, nothing but the dry beating noises of a rundown engine from somewhere in the distance. And so he shifts again, the ashy sand sifting through his fingers, so dry, he left wondering if there is any water left anywhere in the world.

The bay window under the sign to his right, a large crack running it’s length, a river travelling north to south.  Beyond the glass, a brilliant blue reflection of calm waters and a still beach.  He sees her, walking alone, exactly as he will always remember her. Her shoulder-length hair bobs gently with each step, swinging alongside her cheeks and the sunglasses that cover the shadowy pools of near-black. He smiles as she moves, gliding across the white sands without a care, taking in the day and leaving a little behind for everyone else to enjoy.

He calls her name, and she doesn’t hear, or doesn’t respond.  He knows that it is time for him to rise, to follow, to go after what he wants.  He starts to rise, and feels the floor beneath him shift.  The wall of crates is no longer behind him, but on all sides, wavering and groaning, the weight of impossibly tall wooden mountains trying to speak to him.  He hesitates, breathing heavy and pupils constricting; she’s suddenly so far away, moving like a sheet of tissue caught in a light breeze, so slow but so far away. Between them, in the space where there was sand and ocean and beautiful summer day, there is a black grass that may be summer in shadow of an elm, or perhaps something else, something living and waiting for him to run across. The air shimmers, heatpulse rising to the sky.  The sign above the archway is now blank, a wooden plank that says nothing but for him to remember what he knows, what he has learned, what he wants.

“Geisteskrank,” says a voice to his right.  He turns, and there in the sunset light is a face that he hadn’t expected ever to see again.

“I didn’t sneeze,” he says.  “I’ve got to be going, though.  It’s time, right?”

“You’ll never be sure.  That’s the best part.  Oh, geisteskrank.”

“I didn’t -” and his denial is interrupted by a sneeze. The world turns blinding white, then fades to black, just like all good movies do.

Untitled no 37

It seems like it should be simple, to look. Just to look, to shift your eyes inside your head, aiming your gaze.

But then at some point the fear kicks in, an absolute gut-wrenching terror that comes from out of nowhere, no warning, no slow build that rises from your heart and courses through your arteries, following the path of the adrenaline swell. Your eyes come up from the ground and you think that maybe you’ve finally conquered it and you’re almost there and your knees go limp your gut a knotted mass of flesh and blood and bile your brain screaming and pulsing…

As a child, you stared at the sun, directly into the blazing inferno, only for a second but long enough to make out the body beneath the corona. Blue spots for weeks and even now you are haunted by the dreams of a world ablaze, your corneas melting and the beauty of the fire blurring through waxy vision; but that one moment was worth it, because you saw a truth, an underlying foundation of the universe that has left you questioning. In that moment of clarity, wheels turned and tumblers clicked and the key seemed a little closer to your young grasp.

And the wisdom that comes with age carries fear and hesitation with it. Never since have you dared another glance, because that would mean the chance of something bad, something horrible, something with embarassing questions and answers.

What if, at the exact moment of your death, you are granted the truth, the meaning behind life and living and the universe? You are presented with the underlying patterns and their meaning, the tapestry of the mysteries and an instant and utterly distinct understanding of it all. And perhaps this answer is the gift of death, the reward for accepting and letting go, releasing your spirit to whatever comes next.

And what if the answer to the ultimate mystery and death are inexorably intertwined? What if you can have the answers you want, but that’s it, the end, no more for you you been here too long time to go now?

What if looking at her face means the same thing? What if nothing ever seems the same, what if your eyes are burned beyond use, what if beauty loses all meaning? What if hope dies?

And you wish you could travel back in time, become a child again, only for five minutes, long enough to look into her eyes and see the truth.

Untitled

Forever would not be enough, and now was all I had.

It was San Jose, I think — maybe Oakland, though. The memories blur together so badly in the autumn. Ghost images of one city lay across the next like an incomplete transition. We run and run and run, chasing the future through night laced with cigarette smoke and the sounds of broken guitars, one place to the next and the last is another casualty of our shadows.

She’s asleep on the hotel bed, her mascara tracing haunted angles on her cheeks. Another night of us against the world, three empty bottles of wine and a game of tag in the park outside the school, and as she pressed her naked warmth against mine in the cool night air and whispered the last night’s dreams in my ear, and I couldn’t shut out the music playing from the apartment nearby:

“when you say now
well when exactly do you mean?
for i’ve already waited too long
and all my hope is gone”

The city lights steal in through the open window and crawl across her body, greedy fingers teasing porcelain skin. I light another cigarette and time races forward and back as I watch her breathing, watching over her, and as her chest rises and falls steadily, naked breasts gleaming with soft dawn sweat, I know that it’s time to go again. She’ll rise, sleepyhead good morning and the taste of dreams on her tongue to mine, and then we’re off again to parts unknown, her hand in mine and the dust and brine of a new country on our clothes.

And it was somewhere in California that I realized my legs would never tire while I was running with her.

In time, we would forget why we left in the first place; eventually, even where we started would fade. This was our adventure, the rediscovery of the world that the world itself had forgotten, the remaking of anywhere and everywhere into new, home without an anchor, and the whole of the earth was ours to remake as we wished.